Barcelona - Porto: live updates
Barcelona injury update before Champions League game against Porto
The injury to Ter Stegen could not have come at a more crucial time of the season for both Xavi and Barcelona.
The Germany international is, without a doubt, the most stable player in the starting XI and the one who Barcelona can always rely on whatever the weather.
Iñaki Peña is a talented goalkeeper, but he’s no MATS, and this niggling back injury needs to be sorted if Barça want to get out of the slump in which they find themselves.
What's going wrong at Barça?
The graphic from BeSoccerPro shows some of Barcelona’s defensive stats this season, with the clear deficiencies highlighted in the numbers.
The pizza chart concerns all Games they have played this season, both in LaLiga and the Champions League, and I think the most surprising element is clearly how far Barcelona are from where we would expect them to be: up on the top-right corner, putting out high numbers in terms of the press that Xavi is always so keen to mention.
OK, I admit, strong teams such as Real Madrid and PSG are down alongside them, but the message Xavi preaches is one more akin towhat we expect from Manchester City or Leipzig, up and away with the fairies on the top-right, pressing the lives out of opposition teams like a juice maker.
Porto starting XI:
Costa is in goal with Mário, Cardoso, Pepe and Zaidu ahead of him.
Eustáquio, Alan Varela, Pepê and Galeno are in midfield.
Conceição has gone with Taremi and Evanilson up front.
Barcelona XI revealed!
Well, Joan Laporta must be happy with that side as Xavi has gone all out with his starting XI!
IñakiPeña remains in goal ahead of the injured Ter Stegen.
Koundé, Araújo, Iñigo and Cancelo make up the back line.
Pedri, Gundogan and De Jong form the midfield with Raphinha, João Félix and Lewandowski up top.
Remember, you can watch this game with FuboTV's free trial.
Xavi's pre-Game press conference:
Things in general aren’t working well, but watching the Game again versus Rayo, I think it was good. We lack a little continuity. We need to play better for longer, like in the second half against Rayo or the first 60 of the Clásico. The group is together, there’s no issue.
We only react when there is urgency, in the final few minutes. You have to be self-critical, but it’s part of the process. The players are happy with the system and tomorrow could be a turning point. It’s the chance to qualify for the next round as group leaders.
[Refereeing decisions] are not an excuse, I don’t protect myself with excuses... but refereeing decisions have also affected us.
I don’t feel alone because I have the confidence of the President and Deco, I have staff who have confidence and I have players who are trying.
Gavi injury update: Barcelona announce surgery was a success
In the same way as Ter Stegen, although perhaps to slightly less urgent degree, theabsence of Gavi is a cataclysmic blow for the blaugrana.
The 19-year-old tore his anterior cruciate liGament on duty with Spain and will miss the remainder of the 2023/24 season.
The midfielder, despite only being 19-years-old, is already a key figure in most starting XIs that Xavi puts out, and not having his energy and tenacity again this season, when the going gets tough, is going to see Barcelona suffer in the middle of the park.
Serious faces from the Portuguese outfit
The Porto squad have arrived at the stadium ahead of kick-off as the fans gather on the outside of the ground.
Barcelona - Porto: times, how to stream online and watch on TV | Champions League
Ahead of the team news being released, which shouldn't be too long now, here is everything you need to know if you want to watchBarcelona take on Sérgio Conceição’s side at Montjuïc (as well as follow the live blog, of course).
Porto ready to upset the apple cart
But of course, this is not just Barcelona who are playing in this game tonight. Portuguese side Porto have the chance to pip the Catalans to top spot with a win at Montjuïc in what would be a fantastic result for the 2-time winners.
They pushed Barcelona all the way at the Estádio Do Dragão and if they play that way again tonight in Cataluña, given how difficult Xavi's side have found things recently, it would not be a huge surprise to see them make things very difficult for the home side.
Xavi’s pre-match press conference before Barcelona’s Champions League game against Porto
Xavi has, for a while now, and in my opinion, failed to convince with his answers to the press as to what the fundamental problem is at the club.
Simply telling the players to ‘be better’ isn’t going to work, and contradictingyourself in the same answer won’t either: “Things in general aren’t working well, but watching the game again versus Rayo, I think it was good”, Xavi said in one answer before commenting in the next that “we failed at the high press, the counter-press, intensity and mentality”.
The coach also went back to complaining about referees, something that may be best to avoid given the fury of doubt that rages around whether or not he is good enough to manage at Barcelona: “it is not an excuse, I don’t protect myself with excuses”, he said, right before adding that “refereeing decisions have also affected us”. I’ll just leave that there and we can move on with our lives.
Xavi the first face through the door
The pressure is well and truly on the coach who has to deliver tonight!
How things look in Group H:
The strange thing is that the table looks rosy enough for the blaugrana, who are top on 9 points after 4 games, a perfectly respectable tally.
But if we dig a little deeper, things don’t look quite so rosy. A recent loss to Shakhtarwas a huge blow for the Xavi project, with many people complaining about pretty much everything from the team selection to the style and form, as normally happens after a loss.
But this felt different.
Xavi’s team have been trudging through mud for months, with the side not looking anywhere near as good in either of the two boxes since the start of the current campaign.
Against Porto, a Game they won, they were outclassed and out-everything-ed by their opponents, which gives today’s tie an even bigger sense of the wobbles about it.
Team news: Porto
Manager Sergio Conceição has Spaniard Ivan Jaime, Brazilian defender Wendell, Gabriel Veron and reserve goalkeeper Samuel Portugal all out, but everybody else is fit and firing to play at Montjuïc.
Team news: Barcelona
The team news at the Catalan club is 50/50, with some players, such as SergiRoberto, returning from injury just as other drop out. The big news we all know is that 19-year-old midfielder, Gavi, is out for the season, but more on him later.
The other blow for Barça is Marc-AndreTerStegen.
It looked like the German would only need last weekend’s game against Rayo to rest, but the back problem has persisted and he was hardly able to train on Monday ahead of the game.
A crucial moment in Barcelona's season
Today feels genuinely huge for FC Barcelona and Xavi in particular, whose face has been at the centre of the storm of questions that has swirled around the club for the past few months.
Barcelona, despite the results looking positive on paper, have certainly not been good and they have scraped by too many times, with luck falling on their side over and over again.
There is no room to slip up today, however, as Porto present a tough challenge and one that could potentially - if things go wrong - cause big red buttons to be pressed and alarm bells to ring…
That said, a win today and they're through as group leaders, something which would certainly be a feather in Xavi's cap given how poorly they performed last season in Europe.
Did you miss us? We missed you!
Well, well, well, the Champions League has returned!
I hope you all enjoyed the international break but the good thing is that there’s none of that in Europe until March so we can fully focus on the domestic action that lies ahead.
It’s Joe here today to guide you through an absolute whopper of a clash in the UEFA Champions League: Barcelona vs Porto.
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